Prince Alexander son of King Aristobulus II was a “young man” when he was beheaded but he already had at least two children with his first cousin, Alexandra daughter of Hyrcanus II. Theirs was a classic marriage alliance attempt to bridge the war between the two sides of the family by giving them heirs in common—but also, as ranking prince and princess, it was their right to marry each other. They would have started their own war if they were overlooked. They should have been the next king and queen.
With Prince Alexander and his father their King and High Priest dead, Alexandra returned to her father’s Hyrcanus’ home with her two small children. They were the hope of the nation to not be swept away by Rome. Rome favored letting nations rule themselves internally and allowed to keep their own royalty…if possible. It held rebellions of young princes to a minimum and they genuinely seemed to honor royal blood wherever they found it. Julius Caesar himself backed Hyrcanus over Aristobulus as the one less likely to go to war with them…yet again.
But times were tough. The nation was devastated by years of war and even greater loss of their relative freedom under stronger occupation. Hyrcanus had been backed and guided by Antipater, the governor of Idumaea for the Hasmoneans. He had taken Hyrcanus under his wing, to make him fight his brother Aristobulus for the kingdom. It still took Marc Antony’s legions to finally capture and kill Aristobulus and Alexander, as we saw in the last post. Josephus writes pages and pages of the war and wars between King Aristobulus and Prince Alexander.
And then Antipater, now the Roman procurator of Judea, was poisoned. Josephus suggests it was done by pro-King Aristobulus/Prince Alexander warrior factions still out there who hated Antipater and his son Herod and feared their strong ties with Rome and who had defeated them at great cost. Herod, especially was in great favor with Marc Antony as a valued warrior in the war against them. The Aristobulus faction still did not want Hyrcanus to the Regent/High Priest…they saw him as a traitor and apparently wrote the reports that Josephus used…
And (Antipater) seeing that Hyrcanus was of a slow and slothful temper, he made Phasaelus, his eldest son, governor of Jerusalem…but committed Galilee to Herod, his next son, who was a very young man, for he was but twenty-five years of age…but as he was a youth of great mind…But now the principal men among the Jews, when they saw Antipater and his sons to grow so much in the good-will the nation bare to them (Phasaelus and Herod)…and of the revenues which they received…but, the chief men of the Jews were therefore in fear, because they saw that Herod was a violent and bold man, and very desirous of acting tyrannically; so they came to Hyrcanus, and now accused Antipater openly… “Doest thou not see that Antipater and his sons have already seized on the government, and that it is only the name of a king which is given thee?
They accused Herod of slaughtering Hezekiah, a beloved Galilean of their party and eventually brought Hyrcanus around to making Herod come to trial before the Sanhedrin over it. Herod appeared dressed in purple with his hair carefully trimmed and a large bodyguard with him. The court feared for their lives but were ready to accuse Herod until Hyrcanus eventually got Herod off and told him to leave for awhile. Herod did but came back with an army to fight Hyrcanus but his father and brother “pacified his vehement temper.” Herod was persuaded that he had made a fine show of his power and could let it go. “…and in this state of were the affairs of Judea at this time….” synopsis Antiquities of the Jews XIV.IX
This is the state of affairs that Princess Alexandra faced. Her father did not have the warrior gene…but she did, and she had the ear of her father, the High Priest Regent. After Antipater’s sudden death, she knew they needed a protector who had Rome’s ear. She may have been torn between the war at any cost side of the family, her husband’s clan…and her realization that Hyrcanus was also right. Rome was a fact of life. They were under occupation. They had just lost a major war and the nation was in a nosedive. What to do?
Alexandra put on the mantle of Queen Mother as demanded by tradition regarding the mother of royal sons.
“(W)hom though mayest make princes in all the earth. Psalm 45:16
She had a young prince to protect but first she had a daughter. She moved back into her father’s house with her children and began to look at the situation from that vantage point. She may have been as young as still in her 20s, but she will not remarry and will become a Queen Mother with a vengeance…as we will see.
A quick inventory of their options showed that her father’s rule needed another protector with Rome now that Antipater had been killed. Josephus tells of many interactions between Antipater’s son Herod and Hyrcanus and how Hyrcanus had helped Herod get out from under the death sentence that the Sanhedrin wanted to level on him. He perhaps felt that Herod owed him and would work with him now. But how to capture and keep his help?
If one had a need to make an alliance with an enemy or even a friend, there was a classic remedy. One King marries his daughter to another king/tyrant/principal man in order to form a political alliance now called a marriage alliance. And there was Hyrcanus’ granddaughter, Alexandra’s daughter, the virgin damsel Mariamne, as if a gift from Providence. She was their perfect asset to help keep their foot in the door with Rome and to keep her younger brother Jonathan Aristobulus alive long enough to inherit the kingdom and/or the High Priesthood. Mariamne was a Jewish Princess at the age of betrothal; she was their only, and in the way of their world, their best card to play.
We don’t know her date of birth…but from the use of her in a marriage alliance, she must have been of a marriageable age, and it goes without saying a virgin. Betrothals could happen at any age usually before puberty with marriages happening just after puberty…she would have been a virgin princess damsel.
And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, “Talitha cumi;” which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightaway the damsel arose and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. (Mark 5:39-42)
Like it or not…Hyrcanus betrothed the Princess Mariamne to Antipater’s son Herod, recently made Procurator of Galilee for fighting with Marc Antony against their family if he would be their advocate with Rome. He was not a choice that would bring peace to Judea or reconcile the warrior half of the family, but it would keep the Hyrcanus half in power and in favor at Rome.
Princess Mariamne had the right bloodline and was the right age, at the right time to be betrothed in a manner that would assist her family and nation. Herod was the best candidate available. The battlefield would now be the bedchamber.
She had been born for this.
But it was a move that changed the history of Judea, Israel…now Palestine, forever.
I would like to note that from the Hasmonean sons and royal daughters of John Hyrcanus on took a Greek name as well as their Hebrew name. All the Alexander’s and Aristobulus’ also had a family name like Mattathias. I did not know until I found this site that Alexandra II was also named Elizabeth…I will need to go back and do some editing…such is the life of a researcher…ha.
Elizabeth of Jerusalem, Queen Alexandra II
|Alexandra Hasmonean (dau. Hyrcanus II) Hebrew: אלכסנדרה החשמונאית, Dutch: Alexandra Maccabaeus|
|Also Known As:||“Esther (Elizabeth) of Jerusalem (bat Hyrcanus) Hasmonean Princess Alexandra II )”|
|Birthdate:||before circa -63|
Jerusalem, Judea (Killed by King Herod The Great)
|Place of Burial:||Jerusalem, Judea|
|Immediate Family:||Daughter of Hyrcanus II Hasmonean, King & High Priest of Judea and |
Wife of Alexander II Hasmonean, High Priest and King Antigonus II Mattathias, [Last Hasmonean King of Judaea]
Mother of Queen Mariamne (Hasmonean); Jonathan Aristobulus III Last Hasmonean High Priest and N.N. ., Hasmonean Princess, 1st wife of Pheroras
|Managed by:||Yigal Burstein|
|Last Updated:||April 26, 2022|